I’ve been practicing a new technique that I learned from my friend, Harvey Stanbrough. If you are a writer, Harvey’s website is full of excellent material he’s written and collected on everything having to do with writing. He’s a great writer himself, but as a resource, I highly recommend him.
The technique I’m talking about is called “Writing Into the Dark.” It’s a wonderful way of writing that actually frees up writers to do what we’re meant to do—write. When I’m writing into the dark, I’m not planning the story—any part of the story—I’m simply following the characters around and reporting on what they’re doing. I’m listening to their accents and trying to write them so they make sense to the reader. I’m watching the street they are walking down and reporting on what I’m seeing.
This technique is so freeing I wish I could convince every writer I meet that they should at least give it a try. If you’re interested in looking into it, go to Dean Wesley Smith’s website here and check out number #24 of his lecture series. (No I’m not getting a commission for recommending it)
But that’s not the main topic of this post. I realized something after being hit over the head with it by Harvey the other day.
I am someone who is focused on putting out the best, cleanest book possible. By cleanest, I mean one with very few grammatical errors. I’m also very precise with my words because I know exactly what I want to convey, even with a single word. Now, I have always been very aware as a reader, that there are times when I’m completely immersed in a story and then, wham, I’m jerked out of it by something. For this post, it doesn’t matter what that something is. Suffice it to say, it happens.
What I never realized before, is that the same phenomena can happen to a writer. When I’m focused on the grammar, or the punctuation, or on finding just the right word, I’m jerking myself out of the story. I stop what I’m writing and do something else. That was an epiphany for me, and Harvey’s whack with a metaphorical stick is what it took to allow myself to write. If I come to a word that doesn’t work, I type the wrong word in caps so I can find it easily later, and I move on. Punctuation? Same thing. I’ll bold the sentence and move on.
The result has been a 1/3 increase in word count per day. Before this concept I was struggling to fit 2000 words into my writing time. Now, 3000 words fly off my fingertips, and the key thing I’ve noticed, is that my writing hasn’t suffered a bit! It’s still tight or edgy or funny and well written. The only difference is that writing is no longer a struggle!
I highly recommend trying this process to any writer out there who is struggling with perfectionism. I still go back at the end of the day to find the right word or the correct punctuation, but I don’t do it in the middle of my creative process.
Let me know if you try it and how it works for you. I’m really interested to see if it helps your writing as much as it has helped mine.